Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

Animal Bibles by Rönnog Seaberg

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Swedish-American poet Rönnog Seaberg and her husband Steve Seaberg invented what they called acrobatic poetry. Rönnog isn’t in this performance, and I’m guessing that’s because it happened after her death in 2007. Steve has posted a number of videos of their acrobatic poems on YouTube and on Vimeo, which houses the nude ones. The acrobats in this performance are Steve Seaberg, Mark Wolfe and Ashkey Winnig. You can find the text of the poem on the Vimeo page.

The Seabergs and their frequent collaborator Mark Wolfe spoke to Art Interview magazine in 2005. Here’s a snippet:

Rönnog Seaberg: […] We have a group now that basically consists of 3 people; Steve, Mark and I and we have an outer circle of people who also appear with us here in Atlanta. We take my poetry, which I recite, and we illustrate it and enhance it with acrobatics to make a visual still life.

Steve Seaberg: It’s like how an illustrator illustrates a poem in a book or how William Blake wrote his own poetry and illustrated it as well. There are all sorts of techniques for doing that. We use 3 dimensional space for our illustration. The poetry, instead of being printed, is actually read by Rönnog so it is a real event and we then perform the illustrations for the poem, which often are acrobatic but not necessarily so. Sometimes we simply pose in positions that seem related to or illustrative of the poem. Her poetry is often divided into verses and each verse we do with different poses. There might be three, four, five, verses to an entire poem. So it’s a series of tableaus. Sometimes it might seem like we are imitating art but we’re not. We’re composing the work ourselves but some of the poses of course are comments on or are taken from or inspired by sculpture going back in the whole history of art. We comment upon things that people do, ways of relating to each other in space. Some are more complicated acrobatically and take quite a bit of training and practice to do. Our goal is to create an image. I guess it is something like talking sculpture. But we have also had people who work with us who do movements. Recently we worked with some dancers.

Rönnog Seaberg: And we also add music quite often with live instruments.

Steve Seaberg: A couple of times we have done this with musicians. They sort of softly improvise while we read the poetry. That is always wonderful, it’s lots of fun to do.

Wood Worms by David Morley

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Poem, installation and explanation by David Morley

Video by University of Warwick, UK

This is one of a serious of videos featuring Morley and his Slow Poetry workshop. A University of Warwick newsletter has more on the poetry trail Morley constructed:

Warwick academic and poet Professor David Morley recently contributed over 80 poems to a “slow art” poetry trail in woodland at Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. The “slow poems” are written into natural materials to form a woodland trail and will remain there until they naturally fade and disappear.

The slow art trail aims to raise awareness of environmental issues and explore how artists can develop a more sustainable approach to their creative practice. David Morley, Professor of Creative Writing, was inspired by natural features of the estate including an abandoned Christmas tree plantation, the River Strid, and Barden Tower.

His collection includes ankle-high Haikus written into Elm and longer poems written on easels and fabric. The ‘slow poems’ are designed to be contemplated and enjoyed in the natural woodland and landscape of Bolton Abbey.

The project was developed by Chrysalis Arts – an award-winning public art company which works to regenerate communities by creating public artwork that expresses and reinforces local identity and sense of place.

New Word Hawda (New Word Order) by Linton Kwesi Johnson

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Poem by Linton Kwesi Johnson, read live at the 16th International Festival of Poetry in Medellin, Columbia in 2006

Ay, Ay, Ay de la Grifa Negra by Julia de Burgos

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YADagH8ipY

Poem by Julia de Burgos, translated by Jack Agüeros

I’ve been looking for videos of poems by the great 20th-century Puerto Rican poet and feminist Julia de Burgos in honor of the confinrmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, so I was happy to run across this installment from the generally wonderful Favorite Poem Project, featuring bilingual public school teacher Glaisma Perez-Silva.

Elogio de la gordura (Elegy to Obesity) by Rigoberto Paredes

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Honduran poet Rigoberto Paredes reads at the 15th International Poetry Festival at Medellin. Here’s the text of the poem, together with a translation.

Elogio de la gordura

Loada sea la gordura, su grasa
llena de gracia, la curva
tensa y relumbrante de sus contornos.
Dichosos sean los seres de ancho follaje,
donde todo el que quiera
halle puesto seguro para pasar la noche.
Gocen de buena fama
esos seres flamantes, exagerados,
vivos retratos de la abundancia.
Ábranles campo por donde vayan;
no los hagan perder
el tiempo, el peso, la vida.
Convídenlos a la mesa, a la cama
(sin mayores recatos ni privaciones)
y celebren en público, a sus anchas,
los deliciosos fastos de la gordura.

Elegy to Obesity

Blessed be obesity, its grease
full of grace, the perfect
and resplendent curves of its contours.
Happy are they of ample arbor
where all who desire it
may find a sure port to pass the night.
They enjoy a good reputation,
these radiant, excessive beings,
the very images of abundance.
They open new frontiers wherever they go;
they don’t let anything go to waste,
neither time, nor dough, nor living.
Invite them to table, to bed
(neither with great reserve nor privation)
and living large, publically celebrate
this delicious extravagance, obesity.

Digging by Seamus Heaney

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Poem by Seamus Heaney

Video from the BBC, according to the YouTube poster:

A montage of archive clips of Seamus Heaney “Digging”. From BBC NI’s “Seamus Heaney: A life in Pictures” broadcast 15/04/09.

Aaj Bazar Mein by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

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Poem and recitation by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Video by umer05, whose description is worth quoting in full:

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is amongst the most famous poets of last century. Faiz, who was hounoured by Lenin Peace Prize in 1963, was seldom subjected to arrests by the right-wing pro-imperialist military regimes of Pakistan. Once, during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq, he was arrested and taken to the police station in front of the public. In this context, he wrote ‘Aaj Bazar mein’.

The video starts with a ‘mushairah’ (public recitation), where Faiz presents the poem, and describes its context. Then the video, with the melodious voice of Nayyara Noor in the background singing the verses of Faiz, shows the sufi culture of Pakistan, which was suppressed by the religious fundamentalist government of Zia-ul-Haq. Then, there are some clips of public floggings and public hangings of political dissidents, which were employed to ingrain terror in the people of Pakistan. Public floggings were a norm during Zia’s time. The video, then, takes us on a trip to a well-known red-light area of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This red-light area is in the neighbourhood of a very famous mosque, a contradiction unresolved.